By SFC Dixie “Sgt. Dixie” Thompson US Army Retired
There are approximately 25,000 women veterans in Nevada with only about 2,500 enrolled with the Nevada Department of Veteran Services and the VA. Many women veterans do not self-identify because the common idea of a veteran is a male who served overseas or in combat. Some do not self-identify because they were successful in the military and are ashamed that they have not had the same success since leaving the service.
A large majority of women veterans have suffered Military Sexual Trauma resulting in Post Traumatic Stress and making it difficult to obtain employment after they leave the military.
Most homeless or at risk women veterans were enlisted and unprepared for their return to civilian life. They went to school, possibly college, and straight into the military where they are not prepared to leave the military support system behind and make it on their own. Many do not have or want support from their families. And many don’t know how to translate their military skills into civilian job skills.
In my particular case, I retired after 20 years service in the US Army. I had two children, ages 6 and 9, and family here in Las Vegas to help me. I still had to find a job since retired pay was half of my base pay while active without any of the bonuses or allowances which I had been receiving. When I retired, many employers were reluctant to hire veterans. Many are still reluctant to hire veterans because they don’t understand the job skills and leadership/management training which veterans have received. If a veteran served in a combat area, the employer may fear mental instability due to Post Traumatic Stress.
In housing women veterans, their experiences in the military, especially if they suffered Military Sexual Trauma, must be taken into consideration. It is necessary to house them away from male veterans to enhance their chances of becoming healthy, contributing members of the community. The VA understands this and provides a separate Women’s Health Clinic at the VA Medical Facility. This facility is staff ed entirely by women, many of whom are veterans.
There are housing options in Las Vegas for women veterans, but there are not enough units for the need and many have requirements that keep those most in need away from the resources they require.
Oak Brook Realty & Investments is already working with local nonprofits that provide needed services and resources supporting women veterans and others. Oak Brook is providing two properties on South Casino Center that are being renovated to house a thrift shop, a consignment shop, office and meeting spaces. With access to the entire block, it will also provide space for outdoor events to support the project. The shops will help fund the nonprofits to meet their goals and provide start-up monies for small affordable housing projects. The offices and meeting spaces will provide an incubator space where the nonprofits can operate and provide services and resources.
The goal of the project is to start small, keep growing and expanding into larger housing projects with the support of our community.
SFC Dixie “Sgt Dixie” Thompson, US Army Retired, served for 20 years. She has lived in Las Vegas full time since 1995. She serves on the Executive Board of the Women Veterans of Nevada, the Board of Directors for the local chapter of the American Business Women’s Association.